When the week started, it looked like the Phillies' big trade deadline acquisition would be Toronto's Roy Halladay. There weren't too many who thought that Cleveland's Cliff Lee would become the new Phillies' ace, scooped up by GM Ruben Amaro for four lower-ranked prospects. Lee finishing July, tied for the Phillies' team lead in complete games, with twice as many July hits than Eric Bruntlett, and as many as Bruntlett and John Mayberry combined? You probably could have paid The Gnome's salary in full, if you had gotten someone to take your bet on that particular trifecta. Many Phillies fans, including this one, were disappointed when Lee was acquired, rather than Halladay. One game, and one-hundred and nine pitches, into Lee's Phillies' career, that disappointment has dissipated as quickly as San Francisco's Win Expectancy did on Friday night.
Lee was just masterful. It took five and one-third innings, before Lee even permitted a hit. (Yes, Lee had a hit before the Giants did.) Lee worked quickly, and was in control at all times, throwing seventy-six of his one-hundred and nine pitches for strikes. Lee only required thirty-one batters, to record the twenty-seven outs. He surrendered a pair of singles, a pair of doubles, and a pair of walks. As if his dominant pitching wasn't enough, he showed strong agility in the field, bouncing off the mound to adeptly field his position. But the best, and most surprising, part? Definitely, the 2 for 4 night at the plate, with a double, and a run scored. It would be difficult to imagine a more well-rounded Phillies' debut.
The Phillies' offense took awhile to start showing Lee some support. Jayson Werth's second-inning solo homer had accounted for all of the game's scoring, until the Phils finally took advantage of the Giants' bullpen, in a three-run eighth. Werth finished 2 for 5, with 3 of the 4 RBI. Werth and Lee combined for half of the Phillies' eight hits. The Phils' continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, going 2 for 14, and stranding eleven runners. Disco Ben Francisco hit in bad luck, going only 1 for 4, despite hitting the ball hard in each of his five plate appearances. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Gabor Paul Bako IV combined for zero hits, in eleven at bats, leaving a combined thirteen runners on base. Thanks to Lee's outstanding pitching effort, the offense provided by Werth, and the Phillies' two acquisitions from Cleveland, was enough to secure the victory.
The Phillies send a hot Joe Blanton the mound on Saturday night. Unfortunately, he is opposed by Giants' ace Tim Lincecum, one of MLB's best. With Lincecum on the mound, the Phils will need to be much more effective with runners in scoring position. This could be difficult, as Lee will only be available as a pinch-hitter. The Phillies need Blanton to pitch like Cliff Lee, and their batters to hit like Cliff Lee. If they can do that, and display the patient approach they used to beat Dan Haren on Wednesday, the Phils can put themselves in position to win three games this weekend. Three wins in San Francisco, and three victories by the top three in the rotation (Lee, Blanton, Hamels on Sunday)? That should be more than enough to forget about that Toronto guy.